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Colombia-Venezuela: A powder keg?

uribechavezfarc2.jpgRegarding the release of FARC’s hostages, the presidents of Colombia and Venezuela are prisoners of domestic policy, the author says. Chávez needs outside success to assimilate the referendum’s political debate, and Uribe needs to demonstrate that Chávez is not the only one capable of leading negotiations to free hostages. The author points out that the international community is hoping that these events will reduce the current tension between Colombia and Venezuela, and not the other way around.

 

(From Mexico City) IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS, Latin America’s geopolitics has heated up. The FARC hostage situation (and their release) is of prime importance, after more than eight years of being relegated to the middle pages of newspapers and treated as a marginal note for the chancelleries. It was Hugo Chávez’s involvement as mediator that raised the matter’s profile.

Due to the influence of the active Chavist diplomacy, in which the oil factor holds a stand-out position so as to gain followers, getting actively involved in the neighboring country is paying great dividends. “The mega march on February 4 in Bogotá, with two million people condemning FARC, was a clear demonstration of the support that Uribe enjoys” We now have a true geopolitical problem and not so much a situational game of media interests between two presidents, since Álvaro Uribe is clearly risking it all too.

By bringing the cards to the table, Chávez has helped to clarify the positions in the debate in Colombia. Besides, the South American countries, due to their careful distance, have the events in their sight. Specifically, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil (Colombia’s neighbors) aashowed their reservations with respect to the proposition to declare FARC a representative, and not terrorist, force.

MORE THAN TWO MILLION CONDEMNATIONS OF FARC

“It looks like the armed forces are not going along with Chávez on this new adventure, and that, for the moment, they are maintaining an attitude of reservation” There was much speculation regarding the Chávez-FARC relationship, but for many people Chávez was nothing more than a megalomaniac with money and an overflowing zeal for leadership. There is widespread support for Uribe’s government in Colombia, and the other controversial topics have practically been stricken from the agenda.

The mega march on February 4 in Bogotá, with two million people condemning FARC, was a clear demonstration of the support that Uribe enjoys. The other obscure topics of Uribism, such as parapolitics (in which members of political groups affiliated with the president are involved) came to be of lesser importance.

It is worrisome that Chávez is provoking things to such a point that the whole situation could trigger a military confrontation; “The domestic opinion in favor of Uribe is not in keeping with some of the international community, since it backs the hard-nosed no more FARC policy” in both countries, businessmen are beginning to see the effects of political blows to the commercial businesses on the shared border, and the rising friction in relations with Colombia is causing a great deal of worry in the Venezuelan public opinion sector. Incidentally, the Venezuelan leader’s comments in favor of FARC have actually created contempt.

It looks like even the armed forces are not going along with Chávez on this new adventure, and that, for the moment, they are maintaining an attitude of reservation. However, it is impossible to not recognize Chávez’s ability to create tension. His next step just might be to authorize the opening of an office in Caracas that represents FARC.

ÁLVARO’S DILEMMA

All of the aforementioned puts President Uribe in a dilemma. In spite of everything, the first two hostages have been freed, and he must also take steps to ensure the continuation of the diplomatic exchange for the liberation of the next hostages. “The international community is hoping that these events can ease the current geopolitical tension between Colombia and Venezuela It is rumored that the next release will include three Americans and a group of sick hostages. The domestic opinion in favor of Uribe is not in keeping with some of the international community, since it backs the hard-nosed no more FARC policy, which was the march’s slogan. On the other hand, many countries are asking for more flexibility, and even negotiation.

The two presidents are prisoners of domestic policy. Chávez needs outside success in order to assimilate the political defeat of the referendum, and Uribe needs to demonstrate that Chávez is not the only one capable of leading negotiations to free hostages.

Meanwhile, the international community is hoping that these events can ease the current geopolitical tension between Colombia and Venezuela, and that they are added to this geopolitics, which is in the process of heating all over Latin America, principally in the Andean countries.